May 12, 2008

2nd Story: Story, Music, and Wine Festival

"12 days. 54 stories. 46 storytellers. And 5000 glasses of wine."

Now that's a storytelling festival I'd like to see!

Where? Chicago.
When? Last month. Just missed it. (They do have a monthly series)
What the--?

The best stories I’ve ever heard come from hanging out with friends over a good bottle of wine. That’s when people really start talking, really get to the meat of their experiences—the wild beauty of it all, the destruction and the hope. That's the feeling we're going for: the crowd at Webster’s Wine Bar has the intimacy of my own living room and the crazy, wine-warm secrets that have been told there.”
—Megan Stielstra, Director of Story Development

Check out the video from the local news station:

I wouldn't call a wine bar the ideal venue for storytelling, but-- according to the bar's website, surveys like Zagat's give it a rating as a top night spot right up there with the Green Mill (one of Al Capone's former speakeasys and home of the infamous poetry slam). In that company, I wouldn't mind having that venue on my resume.

Oh, it's personal storytelling. Nevermind.

Cringeworthy moment 53 seconds in:
CLTV Reporter asks: "Is there a storytelling scene in Chicago?"
Festival director: "There's a really active theatre scene, and there's a really active literary scene, and what we try to do is-- kind of-- meet in between."

Okay, granted, this is an entertainment reporter, not Woodward & Bernstein, but the fact that this answer got a pass is telling: it means that there is no Chicago storytelling scene.

(I Googled "Chicago Storytelling" and hey, the Chicago Storytelling Guild came up first. But its site hasn't been updated since 2006. So in the unlikely event of a fact checker from CLTV trying to find background on storytelling... they'd skip right past the old guard and take 2nd story at its word.)

Although the video interview emphasized the performance, browsing through the other video clips on their site and on MySpace, I found the festival gives a pass to the writers... there's a lot of "storyreading" going on too. Maybe after the third glass of pinot you don't mind that the evening's entertainment is engrossed in a piece of paper held in her hand and is reading AT YOU.

(Sorry, the snark is slipping out. My guess is that the actors all memorize their stories and the writers have their crib notes in their hands.)

Learn more at their web site,
or their MySpace page,
or this TimeOut Chicago article.

This feature at CenterStage got me laughing. As if a wine bar wasn't a difficult enough venue, the festival takes a break between each teller to have everyone taste another wine. I guess you have to be there. Just the image, though, of the juxtaposition of the seriousness of which you're presenting flights of wine with the literal spotlight on the personal storyteller is giving me a spot of cognitive dissonance.

Still, I'd love to see this once. Anyone seen it?


Tim said...

Follow up:
More thoughtful and insightful article on the Festival and series at the online magazine Gapers Block.

Interesting tidbits: every teller has to work with a Director (like The Moth). $10 tickets. 40% of the audience at the venue cannot see the teller!

Professional Storyteller Rachel Hedman said...

Dear Tim:

For the 2nd Story director commenting on the storytelling scene, it is natural that our art would lack visibility versus the flashy spoken arts or theatres.

Perhaps this is more reason that the National Storytelling Network could benefit from having an office in Chicago. The Green Mill and other spoken arts groups would be wonderful connections.

Sounds like an event I would love. . .minus the wine. I don't drink.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman

About Sean Buvala said...

"Oh, it's personal storytelling. Nevermind."

Yer a bum. LOL.

Good post. Just more support to the fact that we have lost the control of the word "storytelling." It now means that it is defined by the person speaking it. No problems.

Yes, Rachel, we need to go where the action is in some major city somewhere. Gotta happen.

Anonymous said...

What an excellent critique of something you've never seen before. Whenever I don't know about a scene or cultural happening in a city I don't live in, I've found a quick Google search tells me everything I need to know. It's also unfortunate that such a bastardization of storytelling sells out. every. single. night. Think of all those wounded ears...

About Sean Buvala said...

Tim, did you say "bastardization?" Lady. Protesting. Too. Much.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, "bastardization" was not meant to be a quote. I was simply using a term I felt Tim might agree with because he and I think the same way about things (we are both Professional Storytellers and can weigh in on these kinds of things).

You see, whenever I need to critique storytelling on my blog, I find events that are at least 2,000 miles from my home, that don't fit my narrow definition of what storytelling is, and use internet links to support my arguments.

After 7 years of corrupting performance storytelling in the 21st century, imagine the cognitive dissonance rattling around in the brains of all those hapless patrons!!

Let's sit here safely at our computers, Tim, and laugh at them together! Hopefully over the next 7 years they will use the helpful insight you provided to improve their cringeworthy performance, and help fill the Professional Storytelling void in Chicago (I Googled "Berkeley Storytelling" and, god, you guys have it so much better than us!!).

About Sean Buvala said...

Tim, can you post the article that Anonymous read? It's not here anymore. Thanks.

If you can't do that, can you at least post your narrow definition of storytelling? I missed that, too. By the way, I noticed in this article that is posted that you mentioned you'd like to add this event to your Resume. Was that a slip of the fingers, you storytelling snob?

And, if you could, Tim, please stop posting things with your name on them? It is too genuine to actually identify yourself. Thanks again.


Anonymous said...

Y'know -- this really is all just hot air on my part. Tim is entitled to his snark and I am entitled to my anonymity. Being concerned about this seriously tires me... I'm out.

Tim said...

Hoo boy. Time for a new post on 2nd Story.

Professional Storyteller Rachel Hedman said...

The 2nd Story event does not claim to have professional storytellers. In fact, as far as I can tell, they pride themselves in having community tellers.

"Community tellers" usually connects with "amateur" or "novice" so the cognitive dissonance felt--if at all--could help us as professionals. The audience may discover that it takes more than a microphone to make a storyteller.

Despite the roughness of performance, I still support community telling events. I would rather have these events than not at all. At least the art of storytelling has some sort of visibility.

What about amateur musicians or actors who perform around the world? They exist and yet the Music and Theatre and Film worlds are thriving. To advance as a storytelling movement, we need community tellers as well as professional storytellers.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman

About Sean Buvala said...

Ahh, they took their ball and went home. Darn it. Now I have to go back to my work. Sigh.